2013-09 Florida - Grayton Beach State Park and our first florida bear!

After a noisy night at a Walmart in Jackson, MS...we made it down to the Florida Panhandle. Hot and Humid, so found a state park with electric hookups. Grayton Beach SP not only has full hookups available, and nice restroom / showers - they also have laundry facilities!We took a day off the drive to rest, relax, and try to kick this cold we picked up in Missouri.
The white sand beaches and barrier dunes are gorgeous...enjoyed strolling the beach...there are barrier fences also around the sea turtle nests. Gary bought his Florida fishing liscense and almost caught a shark. I really wanted to go snorkeling this morning. The gulf is like bath water, but water's a bit choppy from a storm coming through, so I didn't think I'd see much.

We saw a little black bear on the road to the market. I know they have bears here, but just don't expect to see one. After all that time in Idaho, we have to come to Florida to see a bear. Go figure.
pics from around Grayton Beach State Park, FL

2013-09 A great stop in Arkansas - Cane Creek State Park

We arrived in the evening at this state park south of Little Rock and Pine Bluff. What a very nice park - huge water/electric RV spots with lots of space around, many with views of the lake, nice clean restrooms including showers, boat slips, fishing piers, bike and kayak rentals. The visitor center was pretty impressive with live critters on display such as alligator, turtles, and a tarantula (even though it was a "chocolate" tarantula, I still wouldn't touch it). They had nice nature trails, from 2.5 to 15 miles long.

I hiked about 3 miles of trail that evening; the next morning Gary and I rode bikes to the first suspension bridge and back - about 6 miles round trip - before we hit the road. It was hot and humid but mostly shady, and if we'd had time, I would've done the whole 15 miles no doubt. Had a big stupid grin on my face the whole way (having a great time) but had to work hard to ignore Gary's moaning and groaning it's too hot, too humid, ugh, it's too hot, too humid, ugh.
Boy, you do know where we're headed, right?
Cane Creek State Park pics

2013-09 A brief visit to Missouri on our way to Florida

We used our timeshare on a brief stay at Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City (a chain of waterpark resorts). Our friends Eddie and Naomi drove up from Joplin and stayed with us there, and from Naomi's giggles I think she had a pretty good time! Gary and Naomi both had a great time on the slides while I enjoyed the hot tubs, floating around the lazy river, and shooting hoops in the play pool. This place is really for kids, even big kids like us. I hope sometime we can use the Great Wolf in Washington so my nieces can enjoy the park. They would love it!

We also spent two nights at Downstream Casino (taking advantage of their free water/electric hookups) while we ran errands and visited friends. Funny story...after unhooking the trailer at Downstream, we took the truck into Joplin to get replacement registration stickers (lost in the mail). We've been driving around with what looked like expired tags for months, and here we are ON THE WAY to the liscensing office, and an officer pulls us over. Surely he thought we were full of crap when we said...."we're on our way there!" Anyway, he sent us on our way and new tags are now in place.

We drove by mom's old place in Seneca, looks very different with the new building in front, but nice and clean. I'm sure they are taking good care of the place.

It was also quite lucky timing that our friend Mark's band was playing in a small town in southern Missouri right on our route, so we were able to spend an evening with Felonious Monk. They played at The Tavern at Haven55 in Pineville, and just across the river was Campground at the Falls, so it worked out great. Enjoyed the park, lovely spot overlooking the falls, and the owners were very nice and accommodating.  Hard to believe that river overflowed its banks and flooded the campground this year. They also had a very sweet dog who was nursing an injured kitten - very heartwarming story.  

Really enjoyed seeing Mark's band and spending time with newlyweds Beth and Mark. Congratulations again, you two. But enough of the lovey lovey kissy kissy. you're making the rest of us jealous! (did I mention, the drummer is hot)  Love you guys!

pics from Missouri

2013-09 Vedauvoo WY - now on my list of very favorite places!

We left Saratoga Lake campground and found the dump station across the way to be a washed out, muddy mess! No problem, I'm sure if we get stuck, Stuart will come and pull us out.  Hahahaha. I can't believe Gary drove the RV into that, and can't believe we made it out. Yuck.

Our next stop on a very wet road from Saratoga was the little place called Vedauvoo. It had rained for several days and rained quite a bit of our drive along Hwy 80, so we were pleasantly surprised to find all the roadways and parking spurs are paved in the Vedauvoo campground. Nice! Soooo glad we didn't miss this gem. The name is derived from Arapaho meaning "earth-born"; it is called Land of the Earthborn Spirit. It truly is a very special place...wish we could've stayed longer.

There was a break in the clouds and a bit of sun, so we we headed out for a late afternoon hike on the Turtle Rock Trail. At first, we were....oooh, go around that puddle and don't get our shoes wet. Then, it started sprinkling, then raining, then pouring, then hailing, and at this point we were half-way around so we pushed on. Then we came to completely flooded out trails with no way around. It was either push on through, or go 3 miles back to where you started. Ultimately, our shoes were drenched and sloshing, along with everything else. Just from pouring rain, I might as well have jumped in a river. Fortunately, the water we trudged through was never more than knee high! And it only took an hour or so to get the feeling back in my fingers and toes. (My fingers were so frozen I was unable to operate my camera for most of the hike so didn't get many pics in the rain)

The next morning, we hiked the trail a second time (even Gary liked it enough to do it twice!) but without the numb fingers and toes. Great Fun both times!
Wyoming Vedauvoo info

Some of our pics from Vedauvoo

2013-09 Saratoga WY, Hobo Pool hot springs

Because it was on our way and convenient to wait out the rainy weather, we made our way to Saratoga to check out their free hot springs. The Saratoga Lake campground is a great deal at $10/night. Very hot here in the summer, but we are here for the first cool weather and rain of fall. Saratoga is a charming historic town we have enjoyed exploring, including one visit to the Snowy Mountain Brewery for their little 4-beer sampler. The hot springs are the real reward though, and a very welcome respit to soothe away all the sore muscles from months of hard labor.  :-) Met some very nice folks from Loveland CO who come here regularly and gave us good tips on other hot springs. Has been a great stop.

pics from Saratoga WY, Hobo Pool hot springs

2013-09 Our first day back on the road, stopping at Fossil Butte National Monument

It was a gorgeous day after a good rain....pretty blue skies with scattered clouds and a brisk fall breeze. Didn't leave Montpelier until noon or so, with only an hour or so to reach or first stop. Our visit to this national monument was fantastic. The visitor center is beautiful (staffed by the same long-haired ponytailed guy I think I've seen at every national park we've ever visited...the ponytail must be in the job requirements for national park staff). The timeline that wraps around the entire deck of the building really puts things in perspective....billions of years laid out around the deck and "recorded history" occupies just the last 6 inch plaque!

We hiked the Historic Quarry Trail (2.5 mile loop) to see the quarry, but Gary chose to sit on a bench while I hiked the last 600 foot climb up to the actual quarry. Now, I ask you, who would hike 2.5 miles and choose to skip the actual destination of the hike? His loss, it was really cool and a fantastic view from up there.

As we drove out of the trailhead parking lot, I noticed a white animal across the road....pony? sheep? No, it was a big white mountain goat! Unfortunately, we had vehicles behind us and the RV in tow, so did not have an opportunity to get a good photo, but was still a thrill!

pics from Fossil Butte National Monument

2013-09 Our summer gig ends at Montpelier Creek KOA but we leave with new friends!

There was a lot of hard work to do, but like I always try to explain to Gary, it's good for us. I really enjoyed the work. Plus I learned how to drive a backhoe (okay, well I know just enough to be dangerous) and a skidsteer (as long as no one puts any appendages they care to keep, anywhere near the machinery - Stuart!) It was a great work schedule which allowed us 3 consecutive days off each week to go camping / exploring in the area, so we were able to hit the tetons and logan canyon, both spectacular.

We had fellow work campers and real characters Ron and Carol Lee for most of the season (best green chili I ever had and I really enjoyed the pie iron treats!). The owners of the park, Stuart and Kathy, are our age and really fun to hang out with. Thanks for many outstanding home-cooked meals (and best banana bread on earth) from Kathy, and for Stuart's hilarious stories and terrific sense of humor (already missing that!) to make this summer fun.

Looking forward to meeting up in Florida (hopefully for something fun like kayaking in the keys,  not for something a bit less fun like us fleeing to Sebring to escape a hurricane!).

pics from Montpelier Creek KOA

2013-08 Bear Lake Wildlife Refuge, National Oregon California Trail Center in Montpelier, ID

Our last of many trips to Bear Lake Wildlife Refuge, we did not see as many birds but finally saw a moose. See if you can spot him! This moose was standing directly across the canal from us as Gary was fishing and had it not moved around, we never would have seen it.

We also visited the Oregon Trail Center which was terrific. Montpelier is about the half-way point on the trail and was known as Clover Creek at that time. Most fascinating fact I learned on the tour: every man, woman, and child was required to bring 21 pounds of coffee beans (at $1.50 per pound, that's a huge cost at that time). This was to chew to give them extra endurance for the gruelling journey.

Pics from Bear Lake NWR and Oregon Trail Center

2013-08 Leigh Lake, Grand Teton NP

Our KOA's owner Stuart suggested Leigh Lake and we are so glad he shared this little gem with us! We arrived very early in the tetons to get our backcountry permit for a campsite on Leigh Lake, but unfortunately would not get a spot that first night. So we spent our first night at Colter Bay Campground (Jenny Lake and Signal Mountain were also full). We had stayed at Colter Bay years ago in the RV and had a grizzly bear in our campsite. Glad for no such appearance this time when we're in a flimsy little tent!

Our second night, we packed up the kayak and headed to Leigh Lake. After paddling up String Lake with your gear, there's a portage to Leigh Lake and then paddle to your reserved campsite. We camped at the foot of Mt Moran at the mouth of a stream on a beauiful lake, in site #14B (there are about a dozen campsites on the entire lake). It was a fantastic site, only accessible by boat, and we had both deer and bear in our site overnight. Great experience...peaceful, quiet, and relaxing. Wish we could do it again!

This is a very special place.
pics from Leigh Lake trip

2013-07 Swindler - Blair family reunion

This was a great success - so glad so many folks made it to the reunion, and it was a wonderful visit. A big huge thank you so Sue and John for hosting the event!
Family Reunion Pics

2013-07 UT - Tony Grove Campground, hike to White Pine Lake in Logan Canyon

It has been unusually warm this summer so we were seeking high altitude camping. Tony Grove is over 8000 feet in Logan Canyon, so that's where we headed. It's about 45 minutes to this canyon which runs between Bear Lake and Logan, UT, then another 20 or so to the campground. It is a beautiful drive. Once again, got the last walk-in campsite available, and it also happened to be the best of all the walk-in sites! Really enjoyed this place (though the campground was not well kept, did not have potable water available, and the restrooms were a disgrace). Gary enjoyed swimming in the lake while I hiked the short trail around it. Then the next day we hiked from our campsite over to the trailhead and then we enjoyed the hike to White Pine Lake. http://logancanyonhiking.com/whitepine.htm   Well, let's say I enjoyed it while Gary mumbled and grumbled about the heat. (It was a bit warm even at this altitude - the sun would bake you quickly). Still, I say the very worst day hiking beats the best day in the office!!!

pics from Tony Gove Lake and White Pine Lake trail

2013-06 Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Jackson WY

We took the tent one weekend and headed up to the tetons, stayed at Jenny Lake Campground. info on Jenny Lake campground. This is a busy place but the trails around the lakes are fantastic. Would like to stay here again to hike more of the trails! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jenny_Lake We hiked along String Lake  and over to Leigh Lake to scope out the kayak portage, so that we could return on another trip and backcounty camp on Leigh Lake. Wow, what a gorgeous place. Stunningly beautiful.

pics from our stay at Jenny Lake

2013-05 Lava Hot Springs

Lava Hot Springs is managed by the city of Lava Hot Springs, and is very well maintained and beautifully landscaped, though we found the pools to be a bit too hot for all-day relaxing. The river is very popular for tubing, though looked a bit dangerous early in the season. http://www.lavahotsprings.org/ 
We will be back to this spot.

our pics from Lava Hot Springs in May

2013-05 Finally arrived in Montpelier, ID for our summer gig

We're here for the summer working at our first KOA. Very lucky to work 4 days on, 3 off so we can go exploring. We have several hot springs to check out, hiking trails, and a few touristy spots including caves, fossil digging, an excellent Oregon Trail museum, and of course, Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks all within striking distance.

Pics from our wanderings around Montpelier

2013-04 Utah - Hot Springs Resort in Garland UT

We used our RPI membership to stay at this very nice hot springs resort in Utah. It was a nice treat after all the hiking. :-)

pics from Hot Springs Resort

2013-04 From Pahrump to magnificent Zion National Park

We stayed for a couple nights at a Coast to Coast park (also recently became a KOA) while exploring Zion's Kolob Canyon which we had never visited/ We hiked Taylor Creek Trail and checked out the double arch alcove. The entire hike was scenic, following the creek and surrounded by fabulous Navajo sandstone walls. We also spotted smoky the bear on a 1000-foot rock face. http://www.protrails.com/trail/300/

pics from Zion Kolob Canyons - Taylor Creek
We moved from the RV park into Zion's Watchman Campground for several nights - so lucky to find a campsite open! Zion is still one of my favorite places. We did tons of hiking and it was fantastic. I can't imagine ever being bored there, and we still haven't done all the trails. The only disappointment was that we were unable to traverse very far up the Narrows because of high water flow.

Pictures from Zion NP

2013-04 Thru Laughlin/Bullhead City, and then Pahrump

We headed from Havasu up through Laughlin, stopping briefly at the same little park in Bullhead City we've stayed at before, and then onward to Pahrump. Our next door neighbor in Pahrump, John, told us he also was heading up to Montpelier ID to sell his jerky on the roadside. (We ended up visiting with him a few times there on the Wyoming border.)
pics from our brief stays in Bullhead City and Pahrump

2013-04 Heading north, a couple days in Havasu

We tried out one of our discount parks on the way north, stayed in Havasu for a couple nights. Spent some time on the lake and going up canyon - next time though, we would love to stay on the island right on the water!
Havasu pics

2013-04 Time with Family in Redlands, Yucaipa, Balboa Island and Huntington Beach

We were very happy my brother Steve and his family came down from BC to visit, spent some time with mom in Yucaipa and visited with Angie and Ray, Rick, Angela and Robert in Huntington Beach. It was fantastic but way too short! Hope we can all get together again soon...

Lots of great pics and great memories!

2013-04 Final visits this year to Sky Valley and Caliente Springs, Desert Hot Springs

We really enjoyed these two resorts and were glad Ray and Kay could visit us to enjoy them as well. Hope we can be back in the future to stay here once again! Absolutely this nicest pools and hot tubs ever!
Pics from Sky Valley and Caliente Springs Resorts

2013-04 Hanging out in Coachella Valley

We enjoyed hiking in the Coachella Valley Preserve (http://coachellavalleypreserve.org/), and at the Whitewater Preserve (whitewater preserve website). Both are terrific places to visit in winter / early spring.

Went to a car show in Palm Springs, and a college softball tournament in Cathedral City. We met up with family in Pomona for the Drag Races, which was a lot of fun. Tried to get the most out of our final weeks of this winter in SoCal.

Pics from early spring in SoCal

2013-01 stayed in Cathedral City for a week

Prior to our trip to Quartzsite, we did manage to use our RPI membership to stay for a week in Cathedral City at Cathedral Palms. The park was in need of updates, but the friendly and helpful owners are working hard to improve it. The owners sponsor gatherings at a campfire and dinner outings to local restaurants; we met lots of nice folks at the campfire. Location is great, right down in town and an easy bus ride with Ray and Kay to Palm Springs for the Thursday Night Street Fair. We had fun checking out the street performers and vendors, and Marilyn Monroe who had just been freshly washed. One afternoon we did a short hike in the local hills. We also spent an afternoon with Ray and Kay at the Empire Polo Club (our first ever polo match) and stopped in for a snack at Jackalope Ranch, which is much more than just a typical restaurant - so glad we checked it out!

more pics from Palm Springs area

2013-02 Lake Cahuilla - lovely spot in the desert!

We spent superbowl weekend at Lake Cahuilla on the edge of Indio and La Quinta. This is a Riverside County park and campground, very nice place to stay - walking around the lake each morning was a real pleasure. Would like to stay here again and take advantage of our $11/night cost using the Passport America discount, but free is better, so off we go to Thousand Trails.


2013-01 A short trip to Quartzsite AZ

We had intended to go through Quartzsite on the way into Palm Springs area, but they were having a hard freeze - 22 degree weather! So, with our heater still on the fritz, we delayed our visit with friends at Snowbird Mecca. After a couple weeks in Palm Springs area and the weather slightly warmer, we headed to Quartzsite for a few days boondocking and shopping in the endless flea markets. This is also a great place to pick up solar panels and any RV gadget imaginable, but we'll table that for another year.

Really enjoyed our evenings around the campfire with Miles and Adina, friends we met while camphosting in Colorado this past summer. I am sure our paths will cross again!

pics around Quartzsite

2013-01 into Desert Hot Springs

Made our way down from Vegas into southern California, once again using our Coast to Coast membership for discounted stays at Calalina Spa Resort and our favorite, Sky Valley Resort. Met up with friends from our previous stay 3 years ago at Sky Valley. This year, the swans successfully produced some offspring and together the family has a near-constant shadowing of papparazi taking photos of them, two adorable "ugly ducklings" and their proud parents.

Sky Valley once again proved to be the nicest park with the nicest hot tubs. We will be visiting this park again between stays at the Palm Springs Thousand Trails which is free for 3 weeks at a time. We delayed getting together with Ray and Kay (Gary's brother and his wife) and my mom and sister until we are completely over the flu and hopefully non-contagious.

pictures from Sky Valley

2012-12-12 into 2013 - Nevada

We stayed at a Coast to Coast resort in Bullhead City. We had a great view of the river and lights of Laughlin from our back deck, and enjoyed visiting with our neighbors. It was a short walk (half mile or so) down to the river and across into Laughlin. Good to finally enjoy our discount camping clubs, and this place was particularly nice for the $10/night price. Out of curiousity, we had checked the price at Riverside Casino's RV Park - over $70/night!  Ouch. Guess they really jack it up during the holidays.

From Laughlin we headed to Las Vegas to take advantage of free time at Thousand Trails Las Vegas. We had the crazy thought that it might be fun to take the city bus (free for the holiday) and go to the strip on New Year's Eve. First there were no buses, then over-crowded buses, then a "bio" incident on the bus requiring everyone to get off and wait for the next bus, all-in-all a 3-hour trip home including over an hour waiting at a bus stop in 29 degrees. Next time, I'll pass on that adventure. But...it's an evening we won't soon forget, and the fireworks really were spectacular.

a few pics from Laughlin and Vegas

We had initially planned to stay about a week, but both of us came down with a horrific flu about three days after New Years (I am convinced it was due to the very long night and very cold weather we endured on New Year's Eve, not to mention...the buses full of coughing partiers). This flu layed us out in bed 2 days solid, and then just somewhat miserable for at least a week beyond that, then cold symptoms lingering 3 weeks later. YUCK! Fortunately, we were able to extend our stay in Vegas until we were capable of hooking up and making the drive down to SoCal. From now on, I will always get the flu shot. Always.

2012-12 Racing the storm from KS to AZ

We were scheduled to finish the season at Amazon on 12/23 to get the season completion bonus (we had actually hoped for an extended season but they did not make that available this year). Then, due to approaching weather and the way the shifts fell, Amazon was kind enough to allow all campers on our shift to finish on 12/20 so we could hit the road on 12/21. This allowed us to hit the road in advance of an approaching storm.

We initially planned to head to Oklahoma City and wait out the storm there. So we spent a leisurely morning running errands and visiting friends in Joplin. However, as we watched various weather reports for our drive (Gallup, Albuqueque, etc,), it was apparent we would have to either 1) winterize the RV, 2) make a very fast run west, or 3) be stuck on the east side of the mountains for a week or more. So.....our leisurely morning was followed by a very long drive from Joplin to Tucumcari, NM.

The skies were absolutely incredible as the sun set across the Texas panhandle. Wow!

For the evening, we stopped at our favorite restaurant in New Mexico, Del's in Tucumcari. Great food and a fantastic salad bar. Then they were nice enough to allow us to stay free in their parking lot overnight.

Next, we had hoped to stay two nights in Williams AZ (in the snow) - seeing the Grand Canyon and the Polar Express in snow sounded wonderful, and just a couple hours downhill to warmer weather. However, our furnace which had kept us comfortably toasty in Tucumcari had suddenly stopped working in the morning. The repair was not a quick fix - so without heat - we had to bypass Williams and head to the Colorado river, lower altitudes, and no freeze.

Once again driving at night, as we headed downhill towards Bullhead City, we had a very close call with an idiot who decided we were not passing the big truck fast enough. He came up behind the truck on our right doing about 90mph, and were it not for Gary's quick reaction to pull to the left and make room (just barely keeping us out of the ditch - truck goes brrrrrp on the warning strip, then trailer swings over and goes extra loud brrrrrrp), the little black mustang would have either plowed into the back end of the 18-wheeler or side-swiped our front end. It was the closest call I've ever seen, and we still can't figure out how he managed to not hit us. Our lucky day, and also the idiot's lucky day because he almost certainly would have been killed. Gary saved a life that day, maybe three.

pics from Kansas to Nevada

2012 Oct - Dec at Amazon, Coffeyville KS

We jumped into Amazon Camperforce after hearing good things, and bad things. It certainly was hard work, 10+ hours each day on your feet, sometimes heavy lifting, bending, walking very fast, and the hardest thing of all, standing in one place for long periods. I was absolutely amazed at the whole process and still can't get over the incredible variety of things people order online.....coffee filters? split peas? a 3oz tube of hand lotion...and oh the diapers....loads and loads of diapers, the bain of Gary's existence. He won't walk anywhere near the diaper row at the market for fear he'll have flashbacks.

We met some really nice people, both in the camperforce and full-time Amazonians.  I applied for a campercoach position (there were about 8 of us for the 200+ workcampers) and spent half my shift interviewing other campers regarding their Amazon experience. This was a fantastic experience for me - and while we were struggling with aches and pains, we definitely were humbled by the many folks I interviewed who were 70+ and in their 3rd or 4th year at camperforce! One 77-year old woman was working as a "picker" which requires walking about 10-20 miles per day, including stairs and mostly on hard concrete. I couldn't keep up with her....what an inspiration.

Our stay was uneventful, the park being somewhat unattractive but serving its purpose, just across the street from the Amazon facility. Amazon gives you a choice of some nicer parks which are a bit further away - we chose to be close. But we put in a suggestion for Elk City Lake to be a covered location - it was a half-hour away but worth the drive!

It worked out well when we first arrived because mom had just sold her house, so we were able to spend some time helping with the packing. Also had time to visit with our good friends in the Joplin area.

Side note: There was a fantastic mexican restaurant, El Pueblito, just down the road on the edge of Coffeyville; we usually split the fajitas dinner and always had leftovers for a meal the next day.

some pics from fall in Kansas and Missouri